11/30/09

Jensen Beach

We Cannot Cross the River

We cannot cross the river until it freezes. Bekker predicts January. For food we gather leaves, berries and roots from the thick forest behind the cabin. Suarez boils what we find into a revolting paste that we spoon into our mouths with dirty fingers. Winslow ate a spider he plucked from the web that now covers the ceiling and much of the north wall. We are retreating into nature. Being swallowed up by it. A colony of roots has broken through the tired plank floor.

We are without electricity. It is hot but we feel the cold coming. It is September. There is sadness thick as the river. At night it is so dark we write on the blackness. Molineux succumbed. He forced a rock into his throat and choked a horrid, slow death. Suarez buried him in the soft dirt. Winslow said a prayer. Bekker spit jealous spit on the tilled earth.

We wait. We are fathers but do not remember. Winslow has taken to singing “Little Red Wagon” in his deep rattle. Bekker found a glass jar, which he blackened with soot. He stalks the darkest corners of the cabin for dust and discarded web, for pebbles, for secrets to keep. He places them in the jar and sleeps with it in the crook of his arm. When it is light, he peers inside and tempts us.

We have new feelings. We sit so close we feel our bodies. They do not belong to us. Bekker snores. Winslow cries for his children. We are amazed he remembers them. Suarez speaks Spanish in his sleep, crawling home to the womb he will never see.

We are fathers. We came here. We just did. One by one to this cabin by the river. We cannot go back. Winslow was the last to arrive. We are inevitable. We must move forward. Over the river. Past its muddy shores and the insistent twang of its current. Bekker, who has vision, says he can see what’s waiting for us on the other side and it is what we need. He swears it.

We must conquer. We must cross what we cannot so that we cannot come back We are weak and fear failure. We are pioneers of static expansion. We remain.

We are men. We claim what we see. We invade. We defend to the death our stakes in the dust and the dirt of our shrinking world. Bekker’s jar is full. He sits in his corner with it, unable to move. We are bones. We strike hard.

We collect sorrows in the room. We toss them back and forth in such a way that they have become unrecognizable. We recognize this because we are this. There is comfort to be had.

We feel the cold come. We count the days. We are less protected from what we fear. The leaves have fallen. There are new smells. Bekker claims to see farther than he ever has. He tells us he can now see how much perfect the other side holds. It is much. He stands at the door of the cabin with his hand up to his brow, looking. Just looking. For opportunity, maybe. Irrevocable change.

We grow weary. We regret but have forgotten for what. Suarez has stopped feeding us and we have stopped gathering. Winslow tries his luck in the river. It is so cold. He refuses to go back. He is a torso. He is a head, floating on the black water.

We are in reverse. Suarez dreams of spring and thaw. He wakes terrified and calls out to us.

We see. There is snow today. Bekker is at the door, the open mouth of his black jar pointed up toward the hoary sky. A tree has lost a branch. Dumped its load of snow to a mountainous pile atop Molineux’s grave. Just beside this, in the place where we raised a cross of two sticks in memorial to Winslow, there is ice.

We are impatient executors of our shattered wills. Two days, Bekker tells us. We talk about the other side. In spite of the cold, we keep the door to the cabin open at night and we watch, hopeful for a blistering storm.

We are on our feet. We are fathers. There is a light snow. It collects on our collars and in our hair. Snow produces sound beneath our feet as we walk. We are electric. Bekker slides a large rock out onto the ice. It does not break through. Suarez throws a handful of dirt for traction. We agree. We are men and we keep our eyes on the rock. We follow Suarez’s trail. The snow is wet. Soon there is water. We can feel the ice bending, flowing with the current. We are slow and all else is rapid. There is a loud noise around us, and we have nowhere to go. We cannot go back. We step. We know. And one by one we break through the thin ice and we are gone.

11/27/09

Milo Lev

Action at a distance

It was a pleasant surprise to walk indoors
where they found the gently whirring shadows of chromatographs.
The day had been one of action at a distance
facial expressions beamed across outlandish chasms
each test case increasingly difficult for the particles of sentiment to master.
O gentle particles, what you understood
at the outset has been badly undermined! There was consent
of sorts, but only in the most rudimentary way.
He was seated on a molting kind of chair.
The ancients used the term anting
to describe, among other things, what the light does
or any irregular radiating motion; in the wake of which
the scrubbing of teflon pans commenced.
Scrubbing dishes in someone else’s sink is always fraught
with very specific anxieties. So the formal period
of experimentation had ended, but a solid taxonomy
was far from their grasp. The faucet spluttered ink.
No one in this world has seen it, though systems
of refracting surfaces claim to achieve almost perfect resolution.
All he could do was point to the relevant passages,
and there was a certain pathos to that. This yellow piece of piss-colored
drapery was doing most of the work, filtering objects
from the air. The rest of the work was being done by means of reluctance.
At some point progress reached a standstill:
it was in those moments of leaning together at right angles
without instruments, or inventing together
the things which they did not have the courage to investigate
that the worst kind of futility set in.


Milo lives in the United States.

11/26/09

Brian Heyboer


(Click image to see larger.) (Happy Thanksgiving, America.)
Bryan Heyboer is a cross-genre artist based in New York City. His paintings, drawings, and performance pieces have been featured in a variety of venues such as the Museum of Sex (NYC), Performance Studies International (Providence, RI) and the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art (Grand Rapids, MI). Bryan’s current work, assembled from sewn scraps of fabric, reflect his ongoing interest in “anecdotal storytelling”. He hopes to challenge the limitations of his “text-pieces” in an upcoming cultural experiment that will involve driving through Eastern Europe in a very small car.

11/25/09

Edmond Caldwell

Story

And it came to pass, in the fullness of time . . . but we’ve had enough of that.


Edmond Caldwell writes fiction and drama and lives in Boston. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Word Riot, SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, 3:AM Magazine, Sein und Werden, and elsewhere, and his short play, "The Liquidation of the Cohn Estate," was produced in the 2009 Boston Theater Marathon.

11/24/09

Jeff Landon

CLYDE

She hates me. The woman that delivers my newspapers hates me. It’s my fault, probably—I forgot to give her a Christmas bonus, and now I am paying the price. Some mornings, I wake up afraid as the newspaper bangs on my front door like a scorned lover. Other mornings, she tosses the paper into a bank of ivy, and I have to search, out there in my bathrobe and my doughy flesh.

Today, I wait. Under my bathrobe, I wear my best pajamas. On my feet, my finest work shoes gleam. Hair combed, teeth brushed and flossed, I wait, and here she comes now, driving a little too fast, tossing papers into driveways, thwap, thwap, thwap. When she sees me waiting, I wave and smile and wonder if she’ll stop, but does she stop? No, she tosses the paper over my head and onto my dewy lawn. She doesn’t smile, doesn’t wave, doesn’t even tap her brakes. She is about my age, with short, no nonsense hair, and strong forearms. We could be friends, in a better world.

Can’t you see, newspaper delivery woman? Can’t you see that we are all connected and that we live together in a fragile knot? Can’t you look beyond my gaffe and find your warm spot of forgiveness?

Apparently not.

I sit on my front stoop, and open my damp paper. The news is mostly terrible, but the front page features a dog, an overweight beagle named Clyde, that walked in winter from Kansas to Virginia to reunite with his family.

The family, they had moved here for the father’s job, and in the story they claimed that Clyde ran away from home a few days before they had to move to Virginia. They were shattered by the loss, but had to move on.

There’s a picture of the family with Clyde, and I want to believe this story, but something is fishy here. Frankly, and I am sorry to say this, but Clyde’s face conveys neither intelligence nor determination. Clyde is the type of dog that barks like a lunatic when someone rings a doorbell on a TV show. Also, he’s fat. Wouldn’t a dog that traveled halfway across America be lean and mangy? Wouldn’t a dog like Clyde feel betrayed? This dog, clearly, was no king of the wilderness, this slobbering, cross-eyed, wobbly liar.


Jeff Landon lives with his family in Richmond, Virginia, and teaches at John Tyler Community College. His stories, online and print, have appeared in Mississippi Review, Crazyhorse, Another Chicago Magazine, Other Voices, New Virginia Review, Pindeldyboz, Hobart, FRiGG, Smokelong Quarterly, Night Train, Quick Fiction, Phoebe, and other places.

11/23/09

Ben Brooks

10 girls from Albuquerque

I would lead them home and play
Spank theatre
They cry sometimes but I am wise beyond
Sympathy, no
And when you hold them
Plastic, they breathe fumes
And when you sew their lips,
Ivory, they wish marriage.

Victimise me.

She was 1, ebony and wideness
A canvas painted
Blind and wild, with
Dappled skin, repulsed I cut
Notches in the corners of her
Eyes and pulled them wide,
Her before mirror,
Look, I tell her, look you
Are beautiful, you have eaten
The world,
So selfish, I am self
Less and teacher, hold this
Book for me, don’t
Touch your eyes.

I was shaking, had to pass
Out make coffee smoke
Black and collect myself.

Firstly.

She was brine and stifling,
Didn’t shout, there is
Some honour in
Pavement business;
Not enough! No the child
Was no child of God,
Her church is jade
And neon.

Vigilante.

Lastly blowing with
Steel to skull, she falls
Ungraceful and out flicked
Her eyes for kitty, here
Kitty, starve no longer.

Was cut and kept in
Blue rubber crate.

Then 2, copper roots and
Freckle, a slight sliver of
Stem grown grudging,
Perhaps a lack of light
And so to rectify
I tore her,

In sweat and half-sleep
I shower, bloody balls,
The oil less caress of soap
And wine, fresh flesh
Supple.

Took toenails, slow count,
So lined from ill health
And easily plucked,
Slept with an iron rod
Sent in through ear
Drums.

Cut her into nine
And blue barrel.

Oh 3! Latin tangle of
Coy tan and denim,
Held her in duvet, reading
St Paul, taught her
To see him in spaces.

Carved a cross into
Blades of the back then
Off with breasts and arms
And heart.

Inside of blue.

A quiver of black, see nothing now
But numbers, smokescreen,
The man below sings opera,
The widow above breaks
Glass, odorous almost, perhaps
It permeates the brick, drink oil
And run.

4, aged dispassionately, blank
Strands of hair and fungal folds
In skin, she dreams in concrete
Corners.

Her face made again
With rouge and ochre,
Painted lips russet and
Eyelids dawn, hips out she
Dances, knees to breasts, for
Applause and delay.

Then the lifted face, skin
Peeled from arched
Cheekbones, broken
For luck.

Hide beneath bed.

5,6,7 in lines and groping,
Full house? Then her! Ah,
She is flushed, take the
Bleach, fork,
Prick and chastise! Start
With thighs and climb, 7,
She left us too soon.

Attic.

5,6 please launder and
Polish while I search
Out marbles, gracious,
How many of these
Will your trachea take?

Extra. Pillows.

Now 8, here are two nails,
A plastic ball and a newspaper,
Do your best, if you don’t then
Peeling and salt,
Worse.

Good girl.

Ah, 9 & 10, the clock in perfect
Symmetry, you both look…
In woolsacks. Here are matches.
Distraction. 9 please with the
Skull beneath the foot
Of 10. Go! Yes, yes, yes
You do well. Scarlet soles!

Marriage.




Ben Brooks first novel is called Fences and is out on Fugue State Press. He has two other novels forthcoming. His furniture is oriental.

11/20/09

Robert Bradley

Insubstantiation

Barlow coughs into his hand, bothered by the smoke coming from the woman across the bar. She looks hideous, otherworldly. He thinks she must be an angel. He imagines the things he would do to her if that were true. He takes the time to study her profile, her movements. She looks human, like a man. She has smooth skin and a long neck, like a woman.

“I don’t understand your hair,” he tells her.

“Holy, holy, holy,” she says, brushing ashes off her sleeve.

He leans towards her. “Nothing’s forbidden down here.”

“I don’t need that.” She continues to brush her sleeve.

To Barlow she looks pasted to the wall behind her. Her colors are chrome and rust.

“What are you made of?” he says.

“Buy me a drink and I’ll show you what I’m made of. I’ll need smokes, too.”

He stands, drains his mug; imagines her naked above him, singing, “Make way. I am an angel of the Lord.” And splitting him in two.

“Gotta go,” he says and staggers out of the bar.

He stumbles and falls a few feet into the road. A black Mazda pulls up beside him. The driver wants to know what he’s doing there. Barlow stares up at him, gets to his feet.

“Can’t a person pray, anymore?” he says.

The driver says, "What's your name? I don't recognize you from around here."

“Hey, Bub,” says Barlow.

"I know you.” says shotgun. “You’re that gym teacher."

“He looks like a gym teacher. You a gym teacher?” says the driver.

“He looks like the gym teacher raped my sister,” says shotgun.

Guy in back says, “He’s the one raped my dog. She was never right after that.”

“Is that true?” says the driver. “Did you rape this man’s dog?”

“Did your doggie have a name?” says Barlow.

“Fucking rapist,” says the driver, reaching an arm out of his car window and grabbing Barlow by the coat.

“Alleged rapist,” says Barlow, and puts his hands in his pockets, signaling his defenselessness.

“We’re going to fuck you up, anyhow,” says the driver and gives Barlow a shove. He falls backwards over the curb. Full moon tonight. No clouds. Stars like lasers. The three of them get out of the car at once. A few punches land here and there. Some rhetorical questions are posed in regard to the beating he’s taking, punctuated by thuds.

There’s a clatter of tires on blacktop as a truck comes skidding around the bend, sending the idling black Mazda careening down the street. The truck flips on its side, scattering glass everywhere.

Barlow looks up; the three are backlit, a hulking tableau. Dazzling white lights broadcast the arrival of some alien intelligence. Barlow gets to his feet, shields his eyes, and limps away. Cautiously, the three approach the driver who is now scrambling out of the shattered upside window of his truck. When they see that he isn’t hurt they curse and punch him.

Barlow’s a block from home when he’s pelted with hail, a sudden downpour. He trudges up a hill with no thought of running. Once inside he shakes the stones out of his hair and vomits into the kitchen sink.

His wife’s in bed. He lies beside her, stares up at the ceiling fan.

“What’s the matter with you?” she says. “How did you get those bruises on your face?”

“I can’t say,” he tells her.

“Try,” she says.

“They’re just . . . appearing,” he says.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m being persecuted.”

“Persecuted?”

“Tormented and pummeled.”

“Punished by God, you mean?”

“Maybe.”

“It’s about time,” she says.

He gets up and shuffles out through the kitchen into the yard, barefoot in the pre-dawn of another day. Opening his hand, he finds a stone. He must have picked it up in the brawl. He carries it inside. Sits at the kitchen table and listens for what to do next. Birds arrive, one, two, three. Their voices are almost human.

“Do you know what makes it difficult for people to like you?”

This turns out to be his wife talking. She stations herself across the table from him. He can see the shadow of her vagina through her thin cotton T. He stares at it.

“When you say 'people' you mean you, right?” he says.

“This is what I’m talking about,” she says.

She gives off a soft, unearthly glow.

“I’m just trying to help you,” she says.

He feels the smooth contours of the stone in his hand; places it on the table top between them.

“What’s that?” she says.

“Pick it up.”

She sits, looks down at the stone, then back at him.

“Pick it up.”

Instead of picking up the stone she puts a napkin down and takes an orange from the fruit basket. She digs a nail into its pith, peels, and pries the pulp apart with her thumbs, revealing what, up until now, was unimaginable; a center, soft and white.

“What are we made of?” he says, reaching for her; his voice, a buzz, a fly caught in a jar.

She slips away, stands with her legs spread and her hands on the countertop behind her.

He picks up the stone, places it on his tongue, and lets it rest there.

“What are you doing?” she says.

He spits the stone into his hand, says, “I don’t know anymore.”

He wipes the stone with his shirt front, weighs it in his palm, feels less solid in comparison.


Robert Bradley is published in various online journals.

11/19/09

Christopher Newgent

A Trifle


When he fell to the ground clutching his wallowing chest, she almost told him he wasn’t funny. But it was the fingers—something in the color and the hue. She’d seen them before, in her mother. They were heart attack fingers. She didn’t know why she asked if anyone was a doctor. It was silly in a place like this.

Cheap Bob, he called himself, to promote his car lot. He had those sausage thumbs and walrus body. Every time he sat in Mary’s section. She hated the way he wheezed as he spoke, as though reciting lines. He smelled funny, too, like greasy breakfast and spicy cologne. But he tipped well.

She was walking towards him as it happened, swinging the pot in that lazy, diner way, hanging limp in her fist. Bob was smiling at her, had opened his thick, moustached lips to speak. Maybe to comment on the sun, “Nice day for the brim of a hat, eh Mary?” Had he known then, maybe instead an apology for his wife, for their fight that morning, for every fight they’d ever had, for never getting to the café in the postcard—the baguettes all in a row and the Tower so nonchalant. But he gagged on the first word. He lolled out of the booth and into the aisle.

Mary ran to him, her diner heels clacking against the startled tile, sloshing coffee to the floor. She knelt beside him, checking his wrist. She’d seen this on a tv show, a vague shadow from nursing classes at the local college, years ago. There on the floor, trying to find a pulse, anything to count, she could see the rust along the bases of the barstools, ten stools in all. She stared, this metal slowly turning to oxygen, the coffee steaming on the tile, all these things turning into air.


Christopher Newgent stomps around in Indianapolis. His work floats around in Poetry East, Copper Nickel, Freight Stories, and wigLeaf recently liked it for their Top 50, which was, "Wow. Really? I mean. Wow. Okay. Cool. Thank you." You can blogstalk him at www.theidiom.net.

11/18/09

Shellie Zacharia

Maybe the Moon Fell

I think the moon fell from the sky last night. Maybe there’s a scientific explanation for this, but I’m no scientist and don’t even like science all that much. I’d rather think it something poetic, the moon falling from the sky, like it was curious, or full of sorrow, or better yet, madness – yes, lunacy! Maybe it fell playfully, performing loop-de-loops or swinging back and forth, or maybe just a quick drop so not many would notice, but it hit the ground with a thud, which is what I heard outside my bedroom window. Not too loud, oddly soft, but definite, an almost pretty thud. I couldn’t see anything when I got brave enough to peek outside. Such darkness! I hopped into bed and thought about that thud and decided it was the moon and I only hoped someone would throw it back before morning because folks would be freaked out if the moon was just sitting there on the ground. And I started thinking how the moon was big and it didn’t make much sense, but the way I pictured it, the moon had decreased in size as it fell from the sky, so that it was like the size of a beach ball with a good amount of air or even smaller like a bowling ball, all pearly, swirled, no monogram, when it landed. I don’t know what time I finally fell asleep, but when I woke this morning I went outside to look and there wasn’t anything by my window, just a small pressing of the grass, a slight dampness, perhaps a luminescent flake or two. I figure it was Ray in 7B who helped the moon back up into the sky. He gets up early to run and he has great arm muscles and I bet he could toss the moon pretty high.



Shellie Zacharia teaches in Florida. Her story collection, Now Playing, is forthcoming from Keyhole Press in October 2009. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, Opium, Keyhole, The Pinch, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, and elsewhere.

11/17/09

John Dermot Woods








(Click image to enlarge.)



JOHN DERMOT WOODS is the author of the novel The Complete Collection of People, Places & Things (BlazeVOX, 2009). He writes stories and draws comics in Brooklyn, NY. He edits the arts quarterly Action,Yes and organizes the online reading series Apostrophe Cast. He is a professor in the English Department at Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY.

11/16/09

Kuzhali Manickavel

The Ash Eaters

We drew maps. We made a Power of Positive Action Map to show how sand from Parangipettai pushed its way towards Chidambaram. We made a Heartless Fuck Map from diagrams of reproductive systems while suicidal ash trickled from our lips. B. Lakshmi said the ash came from cremation grounds and we were going to get massive bad karma anemia. We said vasadhi mappillai, dragging out the words like we were going to rape her. Then we made an Anemia Map filled with islands of hard-boiled eggs and rivers of iron tonic. B. Lakshmi drew stick figures drowning in the river and said that was us. A year later her body sat up in her funeral pyre like she had suddenly remembered something. Fat flakes of ash hung in the air while a man beat down her burning chest with a stick.


Kuzhali Manickavel's debut collection “Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings” is available from Blaft Publications Pvt. Ltd. and can be found at Powell’s Books and Amazon.com. Her work can also be found at Subtropics, Per Contra, anderbo, Quick Fiction, Caketrain, The Café Irreal, Annalemma, FRiGG and Smokelong Quarterly. She lives in a small temple town on the coast of South India.

11/13/09

Fortunato Salazar

SAND, WHILE BEING MOLDED

You, my friend, are the world's foremost expert on shrunken heads. Soon you'll be called upon to solve a case. But first you almost set off an alarm. That's right, you get deep into your work. It's provisioning time. So deep into provisioning that you almost walk right through the door, head buried in the sand.

The victim is a textile artist who constructs linen replicas of the most infamous of human shadows. That's how she made her mark, the origin of her éclat. But before she made her mark, she toiled in obscurity, constructing hemp replicas of shrunken heads.

The victim's fiancé: When he underlines, he underlines with a ruler. The black sheep of the family. Mother's vanity plate reads "Chu-Teh." All the daughters marry Canadian fishermen (the family spends each summer in a hand-hewn cabin on Cape Breton Island). A prosperous eccentric clan, pious in their nonconformity, dominated by a powerful mother, a dynamo, the founder of a school for children who are nicknamed Flash. Every student who matriculates goes by the name of Flash. Few who graduate do.

The only witness is a Japanese proctologist, one of a group of Japanese proctologists who make a pilgrimage to see the world's largest impacted bowel. Of the group, the witness has the weakest bladder. He apologizes as the group reverently admires the renowned impacted bowel. He must make a visit to the men's room. He makes a visit to the men's room and discovers the body of the textile artist.

The textile artist had cold feet. The textile artist invited her first-year roommate from Smith, not expecting her to attend. She attended. Feelings long dormant revived in the museum. The textile artist nonetheless ascended to the hall to tie the knot. Excuse me, you're doing that again. She descended and considered her cold feet. Everyone has cold feet at the last minute. Excuse me, you're doing that again.

How badly I feel the need to go to the Amazon where hands with gout aren't capering at night, liberated from their case by other hands with gout, capering by sketching portraits in the venerable 17th century tradition of deforming famous healthy specimens like quarterbacks or linebackers, or any other non-deformed celebrity.

Once you weren't the world's foremost expert on shrunken heads. But then a suspect stood you up. You wandered in out of the heat and took in stride—you were a detective in a violent precinct, after all—monstrosities of every kind, including the world's largest impacted bowel, though to be fair to those who make the pilgrimage, "monstrosity" should be reserved for exhibits that pilgrims merely nod at. But wait. As a detective you learned to listen carefully for truths. A truth spoke. You gazed at shrunken heads and did not nod. You weren't a pilgrim but you had the sense of arriving at the place toward which you'd been traveling for a long time. You gazed there for a long time. Then you stood a suspect up and began a very quick journey.

The victim made a point of flouting the convention of separate rest rooms for men and women.

So now you face a decision, my friend, because the world is never fair, and worlds that shouldn't overlap become close pals, and if you stay the course and press on with your task you will provision, yes, you'll go deep into the territory of the shrunken head, your comfort zone, your world of choice, oh yes, but then again the other world was once your fortress, it had appeal, no one is stood up in a world in which appeal is absent. Soon you'll be called upon to remember that you wore a badge.

The roommate hailed from Barrow, where one may walk across the street into the dollar store and purchase a firearm.

The matriarch we may check off because she saw her offspring underlining with a ruler. Just imagine.

What kind of student chooses to become a specialist in proctos? The very fact that the question occurs to me betrays my status as a layperson. The pilgrims spoke the language of the bride who had cold feet. That is not a language that I speak. Who knows whose finger probed whose distant kin? Candidly, and anthropologically, the proctos question is the one I'd like to follow up, but take note, dear friend, I can't be sure that I'm even saying proctos the way it would be spoken by the grotesque incarnation of Demosthenes who wears a tumor on his neck.

In another and better world you would be so deep inside your own head that you would walk through the door and set off the alarm. Marriage would follow (a flautist had ducked out for a smoke) and then tragedy, a son would drown or a daughter would electrocute herself while reaching blindly behind a cabinet for a spear.

No, no, no. Your wife will drown. You'll make a pilgrimage into the woods to the very special retreat where she fluted on the afternoons you drove her crazy with your restless frustrated need to provision. Your intention, to commemorate the dead. The matriarch knows the same oak. To her it's just an oak she knows, but well enough to visit. You meet by chance and what do people do who meet by chance? They nod, sometimes they say hello and converse. Sometimes it turns out that they speak the same language. Listen for the truth, my friend. As if you need me to give you guidance. I not only walked through the door, I walked through the window. I brushed off the glass and nothing has been the same since, except that I take care, take care.



Fortunato Salazar was born in 1990 and lives in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in Mississippi Review, Nerve, McSweeney's, FRiGG, Sleepingfish, Wigleaf and other journals.

11/12/09

Edward Mullany

American Gothic
A woman with a gun, and a man

with a gun, and a child with a gun, and a dog with

a gun held between its two

paws face

the camera.



Ragtime
We forget in which zoos foolish
humans have caused their

own mauling. A philosopher sticks
his head in the fire, so

what? Here is an earth. Here is another
earth. Here is another earth.



Edward Mullany lives in New York, where he teaches literature and writing at College of Staten Island. He grew up in Australia. He writes fiction and poetry, and is an associate editor at matchbook, an online literary journal.

11/11/09

Meg Pokrass

Birds

The fourth month, one of her tricks was being his nurse. She would bring a towel and put it on his forehead. She noticed he preferred pencils to pens, made shopping lists, "Please, please buy these things!" the lists would say at the very top.

She could see he erased at least half of the items.

Q-tips for paint brushes, the list would say.

Later, he'd paint with them, make homemade paint from coffee grounds.

He painted birds, mainly.

"Honey," she'd say, "this is better than anything."

"Please," she almost said, "teach me."

They were in line for a movie when she felt her dress was beginning to pillow.

It looked like a dishrag covering a small bowl, but she didn't say anything about it, and all that mattered were his brown birds. The way he believed in vitamin D and ultraviolet rays.


Meg Pokrass’s story Leaving Hope Ranch in Storyglossia was chosen for Wigleaf ‘s Top 50, 2009. Lost and Found, in elimae, was chosen in May 2009 by Storyglossia for Short Story Month showcase. Meg’s stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Gigantic, Annalemma, 3AM, Monkeybicycle, The Pedestal, Matchbook Lit Mag, decomP, Pank, JMWW, Mud Luscious, Juked, Pindeldyboz, Wigleaf, Elimae, Keyhole, FRIGG,Wordriot, Thieves Jargon, Eclectica, Kitty Snacks, and various upcoming anthologies of flash. Meg serves as a staff editor for SmokeLong Quarterly, and is currently mentoring with Dzanc’s Creative Writing Sessions. Her blog, with prompts and writing exercises can be found here: http://www.megpokrass.com.

11/10/09

Scott Garson

Meliana Says
The larger ones you could crawl inside. And in some you'd be shaken and flown. Always at first the blindness of it would scare you. Later no. Later you would feel in yourself how there was not a thing you could do.

Adrienne Says
Wherever I go is wherever I go is wherever I go is wherever.

Martina Says
Would you like to know what I have in this box? Stop blinking! Yes or no.

Kristen Says
So then he came to our school. Just before lunch. Our teacher was going to give us to him, I saw. My sister said, Shh.

Sheila Says
An interesting subject, I would agree. But you might want to think about kissing me now.

Jacqueline Says
I woke up nervous and lifted my head. I heard something hum in the walls. The glowing red lines of the digital clock were blinking in sudden Chinese.

Scott Garson's American Gymnopédies will be out early next year from WWP.

11/9/09

Greg Gerke

WE WILL NOT BE COMING TO YOUR PANCAKES

I don’t really have the words to comfort you in your time of loss. My wife is not happy and she doesn’t even know your father went for the colorectal thing but on the way his heart gave out because of a triple shot of Epinephrine. I wish I could have pointed you to the right hospital with warm people but I don’t know many people who give deals. I know Klecko. I know Klecko can get a TV or radio going, but Klecko couldn’t have helped with this. He still owes me money. He smells like a barn.

I’m a distracted person and I’ve much too much clung to the Charles Bronson way to be the caring kind. By the way, I might have left a pair of socks at your house about ten or eleven months ago when we saw your slideshow on the flowers of Ohio. The socks are brown with triangular white fuzzies running up the ankles. Don’t ask me why I took them off or why I didn’t put them back on. I guess my sister-in-law bought them for me and I’ll never hear the end of it. I don’t like jello.

An old man in my childhood neighborhood told me death comes for all. I was always afraid of him and the horseflys surrounding his head and crotch and that was before he ever spoke. They said he was troubled and his stomach had been stapled twice.

You ask me what a real man is? I can’t tell you. I like guys who work on things and keep busy. I like old people too, like your now dead father. They don’t bother others and they don’t have extensive wardrobes.

I’m pretty glad you’re not so worried after your trauma and that you have stayed single for so long. Now you can travel to interesting restaurants and go to French movies. As I said my wife is not happy and I would like to bumrush a kangaroo and take out all my anger on something strange and cuddley—something our children used to go ga-ga over. Just don’t ever get cute with someone who likes to change the curtains every year. Be a cautious person, go into a darkened room to pick your nose and make sure all the pens in the house work.

I suppose pancakes are alright. A nice, bland enjoyment at a funeral brunch. We haven’t had them in this house for a while. If I were a woman I’d tell you to freeze me a couple but I’m not a woman and I’m sorry about your father.


Greg Gerke lives in Buffalo. His work has or will appear in Gargoyle, Rosebud, Fourteen Hills, Night Train, Flash Forward Press 2009 Anthology and others. There’s Something Wrong With Sven, a book of short fiction has been published by Blaze Vox Books. His website is www.greggerke.com.

11/6/09

Kathy Fish

Movement


The baby cries. A fax machine starts up, humming. The man with a lopsided walk comes into the room and reads. He leans over and touches the cold window glass. The baby pulls himself to standing in his crib. The man with his head down, lopes away. The baby twists and falls on his wet bottom.

A woman calls out.

The baby pulls himself to standing in his crib. He leans over and touches the old window glass. A man with a lopsided boot comes into the room and reads. The baby twists and falls on his wet bottom. The baby cries. The man with his head down, lopes away. A fax machine starts up, humming.

A woman lifts the baby from the crib.

A woman and a man enter the room. The baby cries lopsided. A woman starts up, pouting. The man twists and falls. The fax machine leans over, lopes away. A woman calls out. The baby with his head down, reads. The man cries, touching the glass cold window.

The man pulls himself to standing.

The lopsided baby starts up. A woman leans over, calls out. The fax machine cries. The man enters the window and touches the cold glass room. A woman with her head down, reads. The man cries. A woman pulls herself to standing. A woman twists and falls.

The baby lopes away, humming.

The baby enters the cold glass room. The lopsided man pulls himself to standing. A woman cries. The man calls out. The fax machine falls. The baby twists and falls. A woman leans over and lifts the machine from the crib. The man, loping. A woman falls. The baby falls. Humming.



Kathy Fish's stories are published or forthcoming in Indiana Review, Denver Quarterly, New South, Quick Fiction and elsewhere. A collection of her work is now available from Rose Metal Press in a book entitled “A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women.”





11/5/09

Steven Gullion

Sunscreen

Denise understands what it means to be fair. If she goes one day without sunscreen her skin turns pink as sliced ham and peels for a week. She keeps her nose white with zinc oxide and collects bottles and tubes and jars of UV blockers, salves, emollients, lotions, always seeking the magic ointment.

First thing every morning she goes to the garage and does sit-ups on her dad's weight bench. Her stomach is hard, but she wears one-piece bathing suits, so the boys can't see. When her family went to Cancun, she brought back six sombreros, one for every day of the week except Monday. On Monday the pool is closed. Randy Lintner teases her. "Hey, bonita senorita, nice hat-o!" he says. She scratches her chin with her middle finger but smiles. Later, she lets him try on the sombrero. He clowns, does the hat dance. He wears loose trunks that hang to his knees. His stomach is also flat, and brown as caramel, and the muscles stand out like an anatomy lesson. Later, he sits on the edge of her chaise lounge and asks why she paints her toenails green. She shakes her head piteously, slowly, feeling the sombrero's weight as it moves atop her head.

Denise wants to help people. On the way home from the pool, she and her mom see homeless people at the corner of Kirby and the Southwest Freeway. A highway sign says "No Camping." Denise's mom says the sign is there so the cops can arrest the bums for sleeping under the overpass. "And a good thing, too," she says.

Sometimes Denise sees a homeless woman pulling a child's wagon full of clothes; sometimes there's a guy with a fat dachshund tied to a milk crate. They're always holding up their hard-luck signs: It could happen to you a sign says. My cancer came back, please help says another, in big scrawly letters.

Denise's mother looks through her tinted window and wags her head. Her sunglasses cover the top half of her face. On the sidewalk, a woman sits on an upturned paint bucket. Her sign says Need money for dipers. Denise's mother sucks blue Icee through a straw. "Bullshit," she says. She looks at Denise in the rear view. "It's just marketing. Don't believe a word they say."

But Denise worries about the homeless people. All day they beg, standing in the sun. What about their skin? Even if they are lying, so what, who could blame them? She spreads her fingers against the glass as the light turns green and her mother feeds the car a little gas.

Her parents get a new television for their bedroom and Denise saves the box. She takes it to the pool, and on the cardboard she writes in thick black letters: "Donate Your Leftover Sunscreen. Help the Homeless." She puts the box in the grass by the exit. She drops in half a dozen tubes and bottles she brought from home. Some are empty, but they're just bait, her own marketing ploy. Nobody wants to be the first, to give to a lost cause. She unfolds a green and white lawn chair by the box and sits, wearing her Saturday sombrero.

"Please give," she says to people as they leave. "Every drop counts." A little boy wearing water wings stares at her nose as his mother drags him past. "Come on," the mother hisses. "Come on, come on, come on." Two girls from school, seniors, pause on the way out, read the box, and laugh. When Randy Lintner leaves, he stops and reads the box, too. He cocks his head and smirks, sarcasm gathering on his lips. Then he shrugs and drops in a silver tube of something, almost full. "Que bueno," he says, and touches her shoulder as he walks by. Denise feels the sun shining through her chest, through her chair, warming the shady grass below.


Steven Gullion's other fiction has appeared in Night Train, Smokelong Quarterly, The Adirondack Review, The Barcelona Review, and elsewhere. He is currently writing a novel about an armadillo.

11/4/09

Adam Robison

Whatever



Adam Robison lives inside Adam Robinson in Baltimore, where he plays in Sweatpats, a rock band. He is the subject of a book by Adam Robinson called ADAM ROBISON AND OTHER POEMS, which is available now for preorder from Narrow House Books. He runs Publishig Geius.

11/3/09

Kathryn Scanlan

Looking at Landscape

It’s like when you’re looking at a landscape, and—

How the clouds just start to come together, like one big—

You know, I was driving once through the mountains, and a snowstorm was coming up behind—

It was coming down over—

It was chasing me out—

Well, I had to pull over, so I pulled over and started pulling everything out of—

Because the back of the car was filled up so I couldn’t see, I couldn’t look back and—

It was really beautiful and also terrifying like—

I pulled everything out and piled it on the road and pulled out my brushes and started, you know, painting the, the—


I’ve realized something, I’ve realized that—

I’ve thought about it a long time and nobody understands how to look at—

Nobody understands—

It’s like the time I was having coffee with my ex and we were trying, we were trying to talk about what happened, what was the root—

There’s always that root—

But it’s so hard to—

It’s really very difficult to see—

You see, when I was a kid, I would lie in the grass all day and—

I would just lie there and—

The bugs would crawl on me, and the snakes, but it didn’t matter because—

Back then my mother, she would look at me and say—

Sometimes she would just look at me like she’d never seen—

It was like she had never seen anything—

Have you ever seen—

Have you ever—

What I mean is, have you ever been outside walking by yourself and thought—

Have you ever thought about—

Have you ever thought—

Have you looked at the sky and wondered—

Have you looked—

Have you—

Looked—


Kathryn Scanlan's work has appeared in NOON, No Posit, MAKE, and Newcity, and she is the recent recipient of a fellowship & residency at the Vermont Studio Center. She is the current nonfiction editor of MAKE, and co-director of Old Gold Exhibitions & Events, a collaborative project space in Chicago. She received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

11/2/09

Justin Dobbs

The Chicken Farmer


The chicken farmer arrived at the chicken shack at five in the afternoon and looked in at his chickens, most of whom were sleeping. The chicken farmer felt sad feeding the chickens, as he knew that the chickens would eventually be eaten, or else the chickens would revolt against the chicken farmer and ransack his house, eventually overcoming the chicken farmer's wife, and pecking out her eyeballs. But this could never happen, the chicken farmer knew, because of the way that chickens were weak, couldn't think straight, would only panic and throw themselves against the walls, or else lie docilely on the floor of the chicken shack until the chicken farmer came in to cut their heads off.

And yet out of all these chickens the chicken farmer knew that there was one in particular. The chicken's name was Cal. Cal was awake and was now staring intently at the chicken farmer who tried to avoid his gaze, but found that he could not, for overall he was quite intrigued by Cal; he liked him and would feed him extra, not even for the purposes of fattening him up. But what Cal knew that the chicken farmer didn't know that he knew, was that the chicken farmer had a wife, and her name was Susan, that she was sympathetic towards Cal in particular, just like the chicken farmer, but more so, even so much as to want him to sleep with her in her bed, and in place of her husband.



Justin Dobbs lives in Seattle.